HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Lawmakers in the State Senate passed an amendment to the state Constitution to allow for early voting on Thursday.
The resolution passed the House earlier this month with an overwhelming majority. The Senate needed to pass it with 2/3 of the chamber in order for the question to be put on the ballot for 2022.
It passed on Thursday. Now the voters will decide if they want early voting in our state.
Connecticut is one of six states that does not have some form of early voting.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill released a statement on the passage of the early voting Constitutional Amendment Thursday evening:
“On Election Day 2022, Connecticut voters will get to decide if they want the option of voting in person before Election day – just like the voters in 44 other states. As Florida, Texas, Georgia, and other states are moving to restrict voting rights, I’m proud that Connecticut is doing the opposite, addressing our burdensome and restrictive laws, and making voting more accessible to every eligible Connecticut citizen.
By passing a constitutional amendment for early voting, along with the effort for universal access to absentee ballots, secure absentee ballot drop boxes, and the expansion of automatic voter registration, Connecticut is making it more convenient for our voters to cast their votes and make their voices heard.
I will keep fighting until every eligible Connecticut citizen can register without unnecessary obstacles, and every Connecticut voter can conveniently cast their ballot, by the method of their choosing.”
In response to the passage of the amendment, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut David McGuire said, in part, “Early voting is important for racial justice and should be part of any functioning modern democracy….Limitations on early voting disproportionately hurt voters of color, people with little job flexibility, people lacking transportation, people lacking childcare, people with disabilities, voters without identification, and voters who lack language access. We applaud the legislature’s passage of this resolution and look forward to educating voters about the need for early voting in 2022.”
The question that will go on the 2022 ballot is as follows:
“Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to provide for early voting?”
Lawmakers at the state capitol passed a constitutional amendment concerning early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots Tuesday.
However, they did not get the 75 percent threshold required to get a question on the ballot in 2022.
Republicans vowed to vote against it because they were worried about invalid signatures verification and other safeguards.
The measure now moves on to the State Senate. Ultimately, the amendment will have to come back to a new legislature for consideration which will not happen until 2023.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill released a statement following Tuesday’s vote saying, in part, “Make no mistake, this will be decided by the voters at the ballot box in 2024. It is a shame that most Republicans have chosen to delay the voters’ ability to make their voices heard by two years.”
Before Thursday, May 6th’s legislative discussion began Democrats made their case outside the statehouse on two bills they say will improve access to voting.
If approved, it would leave it in the hands of Connecticut voters in a 2022 referendum to decide if Connecticut should permanently allow no-excuse absentee ballots and early voting.
Connecticut is one of only 12 states in the nation that does not allow early voting at the polls.
“Look at the end of the day, folks, Connecticut’s constitution puts us in a bad place,” said Rep. Matt Ritter (D), Speaker of the House. “We are not in good company.”
The proposed constitutional amendments look to allow early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots.
“I think the areas of concern, generally, is how long does early voting take place? Especially given the financial impacts it will have on our communities,” said House Republican Leader, Rep. Vincent Candelora. “But also we continue to hear the lack of photo identification or signature verification.”
“We’re trying to reduce barriers,” said Rep. Jason Rojas (D – District 9). “Anything that’s being suggested about signatures, ID laws that’s not…We’re trying to reduce barriers here not increase them.”
Both sides say there has not been any significant voter fraud in the state and say this is not a partisan issue. Democrats say passing this legislation gives voters a voice.
“We ensure that the voters of Connecticut have an opportunity to decide how they want to exercise their right to vote,” said Rep. Rojas.
Discussion on no-excuse absentee ballots is expected to begin next week and republicans say the mass mailing of absentee ballot applications last fall exposed areas of concern.
“If somebody has six applications come to their home they can just fill them out, sign them, and get ballots,” said Rep. Candelora.
Secretary of State Denise Merrill says mass mailings were done during the pandemic to make people aware of the absentee ballot option but the state does not plan to do that again.
“Anyone can mail out an application for a ballot. It’s not a ballot. It’s an application for a ballot,” said Secretary of State Denise Merrill.
The Secretary says there are checks in place to fight fraud and, while she doesn’t think signature verification is very effective, they will explore that if required. A proposed pilot program has gotten some bipartisan support.
Wednesday, the Senate approved legislation to allow for absentee ballots through Nov. 3, 2021, due to COVID-19 concerns.